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Poland and Orientalism


Des Essientes 7 | 1,291
15 May 2011 #1
Edward Said, the author of the 1978 landmark tome Orientalism, wrote his doctoral thesis on Joseph Conrad (Józef Teodor Konrad Korzeniowski). Said's affinity for Conrad is understandable when one compares the two authors life histories. Conrad was the scion of a noble Polish family who left his home in Berdyczów because of Russian occupation. Said was the scion of a noble Jerusalemite family forced to leave their home in Palestine by Zionist occupation. Both men found themselves exiles in the English speaking world and both men mastered English to become preeminent in their fields of endeavor, Conrad in literature and Said in literary criticism and cultural studies. Analysis of a Polish writer’s work was a good place to start for the man who would later write Orientalism because Poland, like Palestine, has been the victim of Orientalism. Orientalism is a Western mode of thinking that projects a wild and irrational essence onto Eastern peoples and thus justifies Western political dominance over them. In the case of Poland this Orientalism was historically perpetrated primarily by Germans. (Russians, for obvious reasons, couldn’t get away with such nonsense and instead justified their dominance over Eastern Poland by what may be termed “Occidentalism”). Although Poland is now independent we on this forum still see Orientalism quite often in the content of posters from the West who portray Poles as a backwards folk who should be grateful for the enlightenment they, as English teachers or other professionals, provide. Since today, May 15th, is the day the world remembers the dispossession of the Palestinian people by foreign powers let us also remember Poland’s struggle against partition and vow to oppose those who continue to Orientalize Palestinians, Poles, or any other people.
joepilsudski 26 | 1,389
20 May 2011 #2
Poland, like Palestine, has been the victim of Orientalism.

Very interesting, the term 'Orientalism'...I have a friend, a recent Polish immigrant to the USA, a doctor, who
I first heard this term from...His father used to travel to Russia for business, and my friend says that his father always described the Russian society as 'Oriental'.

I think the negative connotation of the term and concept dates back to the various invasions of Europe by the Mongols and Turks, whose ideals were quite different from that of Western Christendom.
sobieski 107 | 2,128
20 May 2011 #3
the dispossession of the Palestinian people by foreign powers

You mean like a kind of anti-semitism hidden in a posting ?
hague1cmaeron 14 | 1,377
21 May 2011 #4
because Poland, like Palestine, has been the victim of Orientalism.

You are full of crap aren't you. Never in my life have I come across oreintalism used in the context of Poland.
BTW: I have read some of Said's work, and it comes across as being written by someone with a massive chip on their shoulder.
OP Des Essientes 7 | 1,291
21 May 2011 #5
Never in my life have I come across oreintalism used in the context of Poland.

Read Orientalism and then study the literature recounting German justifications for their rule over Western Poland and you will realize that almost the exact same negative characteristics that French and British Orientalists ascribed to Arabs were ascribed to Poles by the Germans. Just because this hasn't been widely noticed doesn't make it untrue.
hague1cmaeron 14 | 1,377
21 May 2011 #6
Read Orientalism and then study the literature recounting German justifications for their rule over Western Poland

The Germans came across a country that in many respects was more politically advanced than themselves, and used the argument post facto. However, in their justifications they almost certainly did not refer to Poland as the orient. as for the British and others, their observations of the countries they colonized were quite accurate, e.g: widow burning in India.

The only association with Poland and orientalism is in regards to the fashions of the Polish nobility, who appreciated the finery of oriental dress.

dress
PlasticPole 7 | 2,649
21 May 2011 #7
It's a good analysis of how people like to demonize those they fail to understand. It's not just the Palestinians, it's Arabs in general that the west takes a negative view of while Arabs tend to take a negative view of the west as well. It starts out small and grows. The winner is the one with the most might. Can we as a species ever escape this mode of thought and way of being? Probably not. If we meet species from other planets it will be the same with them. Maybe it's a law of physics?

The only thing is, you could say Zionists are oriental because their culture originated in the East and took over Europe in the form of Christianity, sort of. Christianity has a lot of Jewish thought even though it is thought of as European. The Messiah is a Jewish concept, not a European one.
Natasa 1 | 580
21 May 2011 #8
Edward Said, the author of the 1978 landmark tome Orientalism,

I read few years ago only the introduction of Orientalism, and as far as I understood he accused Conrad for imperialism beliefs as well (something like Conrad was simultaneously openly criticizing the imperialism, but also was somebody who implicitly supported the Atlantic Europe and US ideas about the Third world)

I really enjoyed those few lines from Conrad's Nostromo ( one of the characters to the other (American and a British, talking about their investments in Latin America)) :

"But there's no hurry. Time itself has got to wait on the greatest
country in the whole of God's Universe. We shall be giving the
word for everything: industry, trade, law, journalism, art,
politics, and religion, from Cape Horn clear over to Smith's
Sound, and beyond, too, if anything worth taking hold of turns up
at the North Pole. And then we shall have the leisure to take in
hand the outlying islands and continents of the earth. We shall
run the world's business whether the world likes it or not. The
world can't help it--and neither can we, I guess."


That is what caught my attention.
Yes, my impression ( I may be wrong) is that West still silently nurtures patronizing, derogating and disrespectful ideas about everything non western that can at best be portrayed as exotic ! (cultures outside of the privileged circle, of course if they are not assimilated or shaped by the image of the west).

The interesting point and the insight of the Said- one cannot separate the cultural heritage of the West from historical events West participated in through history. Philosophy, literature... was developing mostly in a way that justified the things done by known empires.

Anyway, we are familiar with the effects of that label from the title of Said's book here very well.
Palivec - | 380
21 May 2011 #9
The Germans came across a country that in many respects was more politically advanced than themselves, and used the argument post facto.

I doubt Germans ever felt that Poland was more advanced...
Bratwurst Boy 6 | 10,526
21 May 2011 #10
The Germans came across a country that in many respects was more politically advanced than themselves

Ummm...hardly possible. I doubt that some conqueror ever sees the conquered as advanced in any form. They lost after all...Especially the last partition as the home grown rascals more or less gave the country away. I wouldn't call that political advanced..

Do you have a link?
hague1cmaeron 14 | 1,377
22 May 2011 #11
Home grown rascals Indeed! They formed a distinct minority in the population, but they could count on the armies of Russia and Prussia to do their bidding.

I doubt Germans ever felt that Poland was more advanced...

Well far be it for me to try to explain German arrogance and convenient amnesia, but I doubt that if the Germans have ever heard of the 3 May Constitution. The only motivation for the German partition of Poland apart for more land, was a fear of Poland as was openly admitted by the Prussian king, as well as the overturning of the Subservient position of Prussia in relation to the Polish Crown (all those Prussian electors having to learn Polish and paying homage to Polish kings- was so hard don't you know). Any other justifications were usually always post facto and extremely economical with the truth. The Brits and others did not fear those they colonized.
Piast Poland 3 | 182
22 May 2011 #12
You mean like a kind of anti-semitism hidden in a posting ?

Why is it that every time someone criticizes Israel or Jews they are anti semetic?
PlasticPole 7 | 2,649
22 May 2011 #13
For the same reason people who criticize Poles are called Anti Polonia.
guesswho 4 | 1,289
22 May 2011 #14
and then study the literature recounting German justifications for their rule overWestern Poland

"for their RULE over", what are you trying to say?
Piast Poland 3 | 182
22 May 2011 #15
For the same reason people who criticize Poles are called Anti Polonia.

This only occurs in forums such as these, not in public.
Chicago Pollock 7 | 504
22 May 2011 #16
Although Poland is now independent we on this forum still see Orientalism quite often in the content of posters from the West who portray Poles as a backwards folk.

This post is a poor analogy. Historically Poland has always looked West not East. Poland may well be the Easternmost Western European Country. Poland Romanticized it's alphabet (it used to be Cyrillic, like the Russians), It embraced the Roman Church. The early Kings of Poland wanted Poland to be West, not East.
OP Des Essientes 7 | 1,291
22 May 2011 #17
The post is not an analogy and you clearly don't understand what Orientalism is. It doesn't matter what direction the country that is Orientalized looks because Orientalism is mode of interpretation perpetuated by people from another country that are dominating the country being Orientalized. In the case of Poland the Occidentals doing the Orientalizing were intellectuals in Prussia/Germany and Austria that wrote articles and books about how the Poles were a wild, relatively primitive people, that were incapable of governing themselves effectively because of these unfortunate Asiatic character traits.
Palivec - | 380
22 May 2011 #18
Well far be it for me to try to explain German arrogance and convenient amnesia, but I doubt that if the Germans have ever heard of the 3 May Constitution.

Who cared about that? In the eyes of the Germans Poland was an underdeveloped agrarian country with a small, decadent upper class whose self-interest was directed against the greater good of the country. Poland had almost no civic middle class, the base of modern societies. Before the Polish partitions Poland had 2 or 3 universities, Germany + Austria more than 40. The social divide was immense.
Bratwurst Boy 6 | 10,526
22 May 2011 #19
Poland had almost no civic middle class, the base of modern societies.

For that they had lotsa "nobles"...more than any other country ever had! ;)
Iron
22 May 2011 #20
In the eyes of the Germans Poland was an underdeveloped agrarian country

You are an ignorant moron !
hague1cmaeron 14 | 1,377
22 May 2011 #21
Poland had almost no civic middle class, the base of modern societies. Before the Polish partitions Poland had 2 or 3 universities, Germany + Austria more than 40. The social divide was immense.

And yet I specifically referred to politics, but whilst you are on the topic of education you can also add that they had the first board or ministry of education in Europe which was secular and separate from the church. Besides most of the arguments you are brining up were only formulated post facto. Besides why would Poland choose to define itself by its enemy, whose duty it was to bring up as many untruths as possible to justify actions?

base of modern societies.

On on the topic of modern societies and identification with the national interest, it is a fact that the Polish nobility was one of the first to identify with the national interest. Most certainly far earlier than the German nobility who up util the 19th century practiced a feudal form of patronage dissociated from the interest of the state, and had a system of governance broken down into a multitude of little statelets, (an inheritance of the Holy Roman Empire) more akin to the middle ages. So it's just patently ridicules to say that somehow the German were way ahead in terms of forming a modern state.

quote=Des Essientes]In the case of Poland the Occidentals doing the Orientalizing were intellectuals in Prussia/Germany and Austria that wrote articles and books about how the Poles were a wild, relatively primitive people, that were incapable of governing themselves effectively because of these unfortunate Asiatic character traits.[/quote]
Where in a sentence can you find Poland and Orientalism being used in the same context written by a serious scholar?

in fact it is is arguable the the birth of the modern state in Germany-which is credited by many German scholars to the protestant ascendancy, is directly attributable to Poland, since it was only thanks to the patronage of the Polish king that Prussia was able to turn protestant.

Palivec

just for your eduction concerning Prussia becoming protestant.

en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Prussian_Homage
Bratwurst Boy 6 | 10,526
22 May 2011 #22
since it was only thanks to the patronage of the Polish king that Prussia was able to turn protestant.

Hmmm...what about Luther??? Don't laugh but he is widely attributed with Protestantism in Germany, not Poland ;)
And aren't Poles catholic???

On on the topic of modern societies and identification with the national interest, it is a fact that the Polish nobility was one of the first to identify with the national interest

That's why they couldn't stop 3 partitions in a row....

You are an ignorant moron !

Why? Poles didn't develop any significant middle class before the industrialization under Prussia...
PlasticPole 7 | 2,649
22 May 2011 #23
Hmmm...what about Luther??? And aren't Poles catholic???

It was before Poles were catholic...
hague1cmaeron 14 | 1,377
22 May 2011 #25
Hmmm...what about Luther??? Don't laugh but he is widely attributed with Protestantism in Germany, not Poland ;)
And aren't Poles catholic???

I wouldn't, not at you BB. But i specifically mentioned Prussia becoming protestant, and not Poland inventing protestantism.

And aren't Poles catholic???

Yes they were, but unlike the Germans they also practiced a far greater degree of religious toleration, which allowed for protestants to sit in the Polish parliament and for a vassal of the Polish state to become protestant.
PlasticPole 7 | 2,649
22 May 2011 #26
Without Catholic Poles Germans wouldn't have felt the need to be different thus Protestantism would have never been invented.
Bratwurst Boy 6 | 10,526
22 May 2011 #27
I'm fairly sure Luther hammered his thesis at the door in Wittenberg to protest Rome...not Warsaw... ;)

/wiki/Martin_Luther#The_start_of_the_Reformation

....In 1516-17, Johann Tetzel, a Dominican friar and papal commissioner for indulgences, was sent to Germany by the Roman Catholic Church to sell indulgences to raise money to rebuild St. Peter's Basilica in Rome.[26] Roman Catholic theology stated that faith alone, whether fiduciary or dogmatic, cannot justify man;[27] and that only such faith as is active in charity and good works (fides caritate formata) can justify man.[28] The benefits of good works could be obtained by donating money to the church.

hague1cmaeron 14 | 1,377
22 May 2011 #28
Why? Poles didn't develop any significant middle class before the industrialization under Prussia...

First of all it wasn't thanks to Prussia when they eventually did, since Prussia made sure that this would be delayed for as long as possible. for instance by taxing Polish trade going up the Vistula River. In addition to blocking all the reformist factions in the Polish parliament, in addition to ensuring that the Polish catholic nobility paid a greater rate of tax than their protestant German counterparts during the partitions.

And it also comes back to how you wish to define a the middle class, Poland's middle class did exist at the time, but it was predominantly composed of Jews since they had special patent for their trade in the cities.
Bratwurst Boy 6 | 10,526
22 May 2011 #29
Nope...Poland was an agrarian country with barely any industry and no urban middle class. That all changed only with prussian investments, infrastructure and industrialization. The development of a polish middle class followed.
Pinching Pete - | 558
22 May 2011 #30
That all changed only with prussian investments, infrastructure and industrialization. The development of a polish middle class followed.

I'm surprised Prussians invested that much.. Didn't Fred The Great famously compare us to the Iroquois or something? Snooty little homo.


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